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Calgary’s Koe captures Home Hardware Canada Cup

The champ has fallen to a former champion.

Kevin Koe of Calgary coolly delivered a double takeout to score three to finish off Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen 7-3 and capture the 2015 Home Hardware Canada Cup, presented by Meridian Manufacturing, men’s title in Grande Prairie, Alta., Sunday.

Koe last won the event in 2008 while McEwen was looking to retain the title he won in Camrose, Alta., last year. But with Koe’s team of third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing and lead Ben Hebert curling 90 per cent as a team it was just too tough.

“We were always in control, never down and we’re always pretty good when we do that,” said Koe.

Ben Hebert celebrates his team's win on Sunday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Ben Hebert celebrates his team’s win on Sunday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

The team picked up a total of $21,500 — $14,000 for winning the event and $1,500 for each of its five round-robin victories. They’ll also represent North America at the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, in Las Vegas Jan. 14-17, and they get the first men’s berth into the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials to be held in Ottawa Dec. 2-10, 2017 — the event that will decide Canada’s four-player teams for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“More than the wins, the Continental Cup and the Trials, which was really nice, it was big for us as a team. We had high expectations last year and probably didn’t quite live up to them and we’ve had a great year this year. Hopefully it just keeps getting better,” said Koe, who finished the game scored at 92 per cent.

The Koe team’s prowess really showed in the ninth, and what turned out to be the final, end when Koe a dramatic skinny double takeout to score a crushing three.

“He put on a clinic out there tonight. Kevin always plays good in big games,” said Hebert. “He’s always been a big-game player. Tonight he was our leader and got the job done. When your skip plays like that it’s tough to lose. I’m super excited, I got latched onto the right guy that’s for sure.”

Even Koe’s opponent was impressed.

“They played pretty much near perfect,” said McEwen, whose team takes home $9,000, plus $7,500 for its five round-robin wins. “We kind of put the game on the line in nine. A couple of half shots gave them the deuce to give them the lead on us (3-1 in the fifth end), and they played pretty much near perfect after that. Other than us playing perfect we didn’t have much options to win there.

“That’s what we did to them in the round-robin. I made everything and they couldn’t beat us. B.J. (vice-skip B.J. Neufeld) and I and the boys, we played amazing, and that’s what it was like tonight. You’ve got to tip your hat to them.”

Skip Mike McEwen, right, urges on sweeper Denni Neufeld. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Skip Mike McEwen, right, urges on sweeper Denni Neufeld. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Koe believes the team’s best play is yet to come.

“That was a pretty good game there, but I think we’ve got a long way to go. It’s early in our second year, and the more big events we play in the better it is for us,” said Koe.

This will be Koe’s fifth kick at representing Canada at the Olympics. At the 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, he won only two of seven round-robin games.

“We put this team together with the goal to do well at those Trials (in 2017),” said Koe. “Obviously for me personally the last one was disappointing, but they’re tough to win. They’re the hardest event to win. They’re a couple of years away and we’ll just keep working and hoping we’ll do well when the time comes.”

Despite the loss, McEwen felt positive about the team’s play throughout the week.

“We probably played our best curling we have all year. Even in our other event wins, this was better. The last four games in a row that we played here was the best string we’ve put together, so that feels good playing forward,” said McEwen, who will be looking to win a Manitoba provincial title so he can play in his first Tim Hortons Brier, which will be held this year in Ottawa March 5-13.

“Before you know it, it’ll be February. One of the best teams in Canada, Reid Carruthers (of Winnipeg will be there), so it will be hard fought battle with that field.”

Two of the first three ends were blanked as both teams went about the game in business-like fashion, neither gaining an advantage. Koe surged ahead 3-1 when his team was able to split the house midway through the fifth end to score two and go ahead 3-1.

The Koe crew kept the pressure up splitting the house again in the sixth end forcing McEwen to draw to the four-foot for one while facing three Koe counters to go to the seventh end down 3-2 without the hammer.

The seventh saw some exceptional shot making from both skips. With his first shot in the end, McEwen made a double that left his team sitting four. Koe responded by getting through a small opening for a freeze on the button to be shot rock. But then McEwen raised on of his own rocks to knock the shot rock away and sit five forcing Koe to repeat his previous shot just to score one and take a 4-2 lead.

Koe kept picking McEwen’s rocks out in the eighth forcing the Winnipegger to take one and trail 4-3.

Grande Prairie will be back in the spotlight later this season, with the Scotties Tournament of Hearts being played at Revolution Place, Feb. 20-28. Tickets are available at http://www.curling.ca/2016scotties/tickets/

The 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup will be played in Brandon Nov. 30 to Dec. 4.

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2015canadacup/?lang=fr